Jamie Taerbaum learned the hard way that icy treats and Chicago weather aren't always a match made in heaven.
In 1995, Taerbaum opened Icebox in Chicago where he made and sold Icyfruit, a frozen product similar to Italian ice, but made with just fresh fruit. As many young entrepreneurs, Taerbaum financed his venture by maxing-out his credit cards.
Chicago's bone-chilling winters saw his Icyfruit business melting away fast and Taerbaum realized he needed to add a cold-season item to bring folks into his small shop. Soup turned out to be that solution and fairly swiftly Icebox morphed into Soupbox. (You can still get Icyfruit between Memorial Day and Labor Day.)
Since then, Soupbox has garnered kudos from celebrities, including Rachael Ray, and has been lauded for its comfort food by Citysearch.
I'm a big soup fan from way back. Decades ago, Grandmother Mauer guided me through the soup-making process (she made the best turkey soup on the planet). Since broth-based soups (like chicken and vegetable) made on the weekends and hauled to work during the week helped me lose many of the 155 pounds I shed between 2005 and 2007, I could barely wait to page through "The Soupbox Cookbook: Sensational Soups for Healthy Living" (Race Point Publishing, $27) that Taerbaum wrote with Soupbox general manager Dru Melton.
My enthusiasm for learning the secrets to Soupbox's renowned soups (like their not-so-diet-friendly Signature Lobster Bisque) was totally justified. The 250-page book contains oodles of soups and numerous color pictures that'll motivate you to head for your kitchen on a winter weekend afternoon to stir together one of their body-warming soups.
The Soupbox Cookbook contains 125 recipes -- many of them customer favorites -- along with new soups created just for the book. The book begins with vegetable soups, like Classic Mulligatawny and Cuban Black Bean and then moves to meatier options such as Bacon, Tomato & Cheddar Chowder and Pizza Lover's (everything but the crust). You'll find soups like Healthy Rosemary Chicken Dumpling, Authentic Mexican Tortilla Soup, The Divine Cream of Mushroom Soup, Soupbox's complex (19-ingredients!) Cioppino, authentic Brunswick Stew and several chilis.
Many of the broth-based soups are probably low in calories, but you won't know for certain since there's no nutritional information (you can get nutritional information for some of the recipes by going to soupbox.com/nutritional). When cream and butter are in play, you can assume that soup will be much higher in fat and calories.
The authors sprinkle Cook's Notes liberally throughout, sharing insights such as the difference between Creole gumbo (seafood-heavy) and Cajun gumbo (more fowl and game meats). Symbols lead readers to gluten-free soups or soups that can be made without gluten.
Sure it may be easier to head into one of the two Soupbox locations for a hearty and frequently healthy bowl, but it's more fun to create a Soupbox soup at home.I give the Soupbox cookbook two soup spoons up.
Try this recipe: Considering adding "The Soupbox Cookbook" to your collection? A taste of Sicilian Chicken Soup with Bowtie Pasta may help you make up your mind.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.